The WildLife: Howler Monkeys, Robin Brockett

Robin Brockett, former director of the Wildlife Care Center in Belize, talks about howler monkeys in Belize. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how her research into their diet and habits has helped her with rehabilitate howler monkeys captured as pets for release back into the wild.

Howler monkeys are the loudest land animal in the world. They’re known for their loud, guttural, barking howls, which can be heard over three miles away. But did you know that they smell like steeped black tea? Or that they are picky eaters? While howler monkeys in Belize will eat 75 different species of leaves, they’re very particular about the age of the leaves. There are only a few types of leaves they’ll eat year-round. For example, (ficus) fig leaves appear the same all year long but sometimes the howlers will avoid it. That’s because these leaves have a high latex content, and at some point it becomes less palatable and less digestible.

Robin Brockett spent 16 years in Belize first researching howler monkeys in the wild and then spearheading the rehabilitation of confiscated pets back into the wild. Her work led to establishment of the Wildlife Care Center of Belize in 1999, where she served as director for over a decade. Over that time, Robin has nursed and released over 30 howler monkeys back into the wild. Before moving to Belize, Robin Brockett was a primate keeper at Zoo Atlanta for three years where she became involved in behavioral research.  Prior to that, Robin spent three years at the Bronx Zoo in both the bird and mammal departments and also time in zookeeper positions at the Franklin Park Children's Zoo and the New England Science Center.  She’s currently Assistant Bird Curator with the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.  She still works with the Belize government on issues related to the pet trade. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on June 27, 2011.


The WildLife: Bear Bile Trade in Asia, Kaitlyn Foley

Kaitlyn Foley, senior programme officer at TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, talks about the bear bile trade in Asia. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how recent research by TRAFFIC shows that the illegal bear bile trade continues unabated across Asia on a large scale.

The poaching and illegal trade of bears is driven largely by the demand for their bile, which is used in traditional medicine and folk remedies. Research by TRAFFIC, published in the report Pills, Powders, Vials & Flakes: The bear bile trade in Asia, found bear bile products on sale in traditional medicine outlets in all but one (Macao) of the 13 countries/territories surveyed, suggesting a complex and robust trade in bear products. Of particular note were mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Myanmar and Viet Nam, where bear bile products were most frequently observed. While bile from bear farms in China is legal if sold domestically, TRAFFIC found this Chinese bear bile being illegal sold across the border. It also noted that “Mom & Pop” bear farms were popping up in Laos and Myanmar, making these countries new potential hubs for this trade.

Kaitlyn-Elizabeth Foley is a senior programme officer at TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.  She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of Rhode Island and a Master of Science in Primate Conservation from Oxford Brookes University.  Her main research interests include wildlife trade, conservation, and animal behavior and welfare.  For the past nine years, Kaitlyn has lived and worked abroad in Italy, the United Kingdom and Malaysia.  Most recently her work and research interest has been focused on the conservation and mitigation of trade in bears and the pet trade of mammals in Asia. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on June 20, 2011.


The WildLife: Dung Beetles, Doug Emlen

Doug Emlen, a University of Montana biology professor, reveals the strange and endearing characteristics of dung beetles. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about their unique biology and diversity and how the varied shapes of their horns affect their lifestyle. Doug Emlen is a professor of biology at the University of Montana and an expert on the evolution and development of bizarre and extreme morphology of insects. Always interested in animal armaments, he became a dung beetle aficionado after studying a Panamanian dung beetle specializing in howler monkey scat. Since then, he has broadened his research to dung beetles all over the world and has noticed interesting patterns in their weaponry. He has expanded his focus to explore the evolutionary forces that make animal weapons, from dung beetle horns to elk antlers to rhino horns, so diverse. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on June 7, 2010 and was rebroadcast on June 13, 2011.


The WildLife: Common Terns, Chris Boget

Chris Boget, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust talks about common terns and land conservation. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how the Common Tern is one of Vermont’s greatest wildlife conservation victories, due to protection of its breeding habitat.

While common terns are the most widespread tern in North America, in many states, including Vermont, they’re threatened or endangered. Habitat loss from either human activities, erosion or even gulls and other critters taking over has led to the concentration of colonies on a smaller number of suitable nesting sites. Consequently, more and more often common terns were nesting at marginal locations where the quality of their habitat was low and the risk of predation – from raccoons, skunks, opossums, gulls and even ants – is high. In Vermont’s Lake Champlain basin, for example, the number of common terns dropped from almost 400 nesting pairs in the 1960s to only 50 in 1988. As a result, in 1989 the Common Tern was placed on the state of Vermont’s endangered species list.

Common Terns are extremely sensitive to disturbance during the breeding season. Adults will attack human intruders in the nesting colonies, often striking them on the head with their bills. The problem is that, the more they have to protect their chicks from intruders, the less time and energy they have to care for their young. The Lake Champlain Land Trust recognized that problem early on and, since 1978, worked to permanently conserve and protect several important Common Tern nesting islands in Lake Champlain. It started by reaching out to the landowners of the few islands with nesting Common Terns and educating them about the value of the birds and the problems they face. The Lake Champlain Land Trust then led the effort to purchase and protect the only possible island habitats for terns. Through the protection of breeding habitat, along with continual monitoring and management efforts of its partners at the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, Green Mountain Audubon Society and Audubon Vermont, the story of the Common Tern is now one of Vermont’s greatest wildlife conservation victories. Their numbers have soared by over 300 percent, from just 50 breeding pairs at the end of the 1980’s to close to 200 today.

Chris Boget, is the Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust. The mission of the Lake Champlain Land Trust is to save the scenic beauty, natural communities, and recreational amenities of Lake Champlain by permanently preserving significant islands, shoreline areas, and natural communities in the Champlain Region. Chris Boget has more than twenty years of experience in land conservation, including positions with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Vermont Land Trust, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Before becoming Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust, he previously served as their Director of Land Protection and also as Assistant Director. Chris has extensive experience with landowner outreach and education. He received a Master of Science degree in Natural Resource Planning from the University of Vermont and an undergraduate degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont aired on June 6, 2011.

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